College basketball power rankings what we got right and wrong


By all accounts, it has been a wild college basketball season. Forget the FBI investigation or Louisville’s national championship banner coming down or any number of off-court stories — the on-court action has produced eye-opening results every night.

Despite the craziness, the top of the power rankings hasn’t really reflected it. There have been only a handful of No. 1 teams in the past four months: Duke, Villanova, Michigan State, Virginia … and Arizona State. In retrospect, we might have been a little aggressive with the Sun Devils, but at the time, wins over Kansas and Xavier were a clear trump card on everyone else in the country. (By the way, those two wins are probably the only reason Arizona State is still considered an NCAA tournament team.)

In honor of this being the final power rankings of the season, let’s look at some of the biggest changes from the preseason rankings.

The biggest miss was Virginia. The Cavaliers weren’t even in the top 25 in November, yet they’re the clear-cut No. 1 team in the country and have been atop the rankings for more than a month. Tony Bennett has done arguably the best coaching job of anyone in the country, but perhaps we also underrated the Cavaliers’ talent. Kyle Guy gets the most hype, but Ty Jerome is one of the most clutch guards in the country, and De’Andre Hunter has a future in the NBA.

Other noteworthy omissions from the preseason included Purdue, who was probably the final team left out, and SEC co-champs Auburn and Tennessee — two teams virtually nobody saw coming.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Duke entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country, and despite several bumps along the way, one can make the argument that the Blue Devils are still the national title favorites heading into the ACC tournament.

We were too high, however, on USC, Minnesota and Northwestern. At least the Trojans are still fighting for an NCAA tournament bid, while the two Big Ten teams didn’t even finish .500 overall.

It’s all about brackets from here on out, though. One month from today, we’ll be crowning a national champion.

Previous: Preseason | Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8| Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15

1. Virginia Cavaliers
Record: 28-2
Last week: 1

Despite the seemingly weekly carnage around them, the Cavaliers enter the ACC tournament with only two losses — a one-point overtime defeat to Virginia Tech and a seven-point loss at West Virginia. Is this the year Tony Bennett finally breaks through to the Final Four?

2. Villanova Wildcats
Record: 27-4
Last week: 2

Owning the best offense in college basketball since Wisconsin in 2015, Villanova has been up and down over the past month. The Wildcats are now fully healthy, though, and Mikal Bridges is starting to heat up again; he has scored at least 23 points in four of his past five games.

3. Xavier Musketeers
Record: 27-4
Last week: 3

For the first time since the Big East was transformed, a team other than Villanova won the regular-season title. Xavier beat the Wildcats by a game in the standings despite getting swept in their two meetings. The Musketeers are deep, balanced and experienced. This 1-seed isn’t a fluke.

4. Kansas Jayhawks
Record: 24-7
Last week: 4

Kansas’ potential 1-seed seems to be the most precarious of the top four teams right now, especially if the Jayhawks slip up early in the Big 12 tournament. But for now, they’ll hold strong with 10 Quadrant 1 wins and an 18-6 record against Quadrants 1 and 2.

5. Duke Blue Devils
Record: 25-6
Last week: 6

Duke is rounding into form at the right time, and Saturday’s win over North Carolina is putting pressure on Kansas for the final 1-seed. The Blue Devils have now held seven straight opponents to below one point per possession and are ranked No. 10 in adjusted defensive efficiency.

6. Purdue Boilermakers
Record: 28-6
Last week: 8

Could the Boilermakers have had a shot at a 1-seed if they beat Michigan on Sunday? It’s an irrelevant argument now, but Purdue should still stay on the top-two seed lines after finishing as Big Ten runners-up in both the regular season and conference tournament.

7. Cincinnati Bearcats
Record: 27-4
Last week: 10

Cincinnati made a strong statement on Sunday afternoon, going into Wichita State and knocking off the Shockers by one. The Bearcats still don’t have a ton of great wins — Sunday was by far their best win of the season — but they have elite efficiency numbers and 13 Quadrant 1 and 2 wins.

8. North Carolina Tar Heels
Record: 22-9
Last week: 7

There was an outside chance at a 1-seed for North Carolina if it won at Duke on Saturday and went on to win the ACC tournament. Instead, the Tar Heels head to Brooklyn on a two-game losing streak. A loss in the ACC tournament would give Carolina 10 pre-NCAA tournament losses, by the way.

9. Michigan Wolverines
Record: 28-7
Last week: 22

The Wolverines have one of the biggest rises of any team this season after they won four games in four days to secure their second straight conference tournament championship. Their profile improves dramatically thanks to a second win over Michigan State and a victory over Purdue.

10. Michigan State Spartans
Record: 29-4
Last week: 5

The Spartans saw their 13-game win streak snapped by Michigan in the Big Ten semifinal, and now they face a long layoff until the NCAA tournament. They could drop even further as teams jump them this week. Michigan State is just 3-4 against Quadrant 1 teams.

11. Auburn Tigers
Record: 25-6
Last week: 9

The Tigers’ win over South Carolina was quietly important for the Tigers, as it not only clinched a share of the SEC regular-season title but also meant they didn’t enter the conference tournament losing three in a row — with a 1-3 record without Anfernee McLemore.

12. Tennessee Volunteers
Record: 23-7
Last week: 11

Rick Barnes has done a tremendous job with this team all season, as the Volunteers end the regular season winning four in a row and 14 of their past 17 games. Their defense has remained elite down the stretch, and they finally broke out of their offensive shell last week against Mississippi State and Georgia.

13. Texas Tech Red Raiders
Record: 23-8
Last week: 12

After a four-game losing streak, Chris Beard brought all his injured players back into the fold against TCU on Saturday and got a four-point win. Most importantly, Keenan Evans went for 23 points on 11 shots. If he’s healthy, the Red Raiders have the horses to make a deep March run.

14. Wichita State Shockers
Record: 24-6
Last week: 13

Wichita State saw its seven-game win streak snapped on Sunday at home against Cincinnati. The Shockers have had six straight games decided by seven points or fewer, with Wichita State winning five of them. Their defense continues to struggle, even against inferior opponents.

15. Arizona Wildcats
Record: 24-7
Last week: 16

For now, everything is back to normal in Tucson. Sean Miller is on the sideline, Allonzo Trier is back playing, and Deandre Ayton is still dominating all opponents. The key, as always, is Parker Jackson-Cartwright. Over the past five games, his assist-to-turnover ratio is 16-to-15.

16. Gonzaga Bulldogs
Record: 28-4
Last week: 15

Gonzaga is going to be one of the most interesting cases for the committee on Sunday. The Bulldogs have only four Quadrant 1 wins and six Quadrant 1 and 2 wins, the fewest among any team in the power rankings this week. But they’re top-10 in multiple metrics and have won 12 straight.

17. West Virginia Mountaineers
Record: 22-9
Last week: 17

Over the past four seasons, West Virginia has relied on two things: offensive rebounding and forcing turnovers. For the fourth straight season, the Mountaineers rank in the top six nationally in offensive rebounding percentage and in the top two nationally in defensive turnover percentage.

18. Clemson Tigers
Record: 22-8
Last week: 14

The Tigers are starting to lose some steam down the stretch, losing four of their final six games heading into the ACC tournament. They’re also just 6-5 since Donte Grantham was lost for the season with an injury. Throw in a paltry 4-8 Quadrant 1 record, and Clemson could be seeded surprisingly low on Selection Sunday.

19. Florida Gators
Record: 20-11
Last week: 23

This is a fascinating profile. The Gators are one of just three teams with double-digit Quadrant 1 wins, and now they have respectable RPI and SOS numbers. They enter the SEC tournament with consecutive wins over Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky and could be rediscovering their early-season form.

20. Ohio State Buckeyes
Record: 24-8
Last week: 18

It’s just something about Penn State this season. The Buckeyes lost all three meetings with the Nittany Lions, including falling in the Big Ten quarterfinals last week. Ohio State has lost three of its past five, allowing at least 1.06 points per possession in four of its past five — after allowing that just three times the previous 19 games.

21. Houston Cougars
Record: 24-6
Last week: 25

According to Bart Torvik’s site, Houston is No. 6 nationally in adjusted efficiency over the past 10 games, with a top-15 ranking on both offense and defense. The Cougars’ only losses since mid-January are at Cincinnati and, oddly enough, at Memphis. Kelvin Sampson has them rolling.

22. Kentucky Wildcats
Record: 21-10
Last week: 20

Saturday’s loss to Florida highlighted a few trends with this Kentucky team. One, Hamidou Diallo has disappeared more often than not over the past month, scoring in double figures three times since Jan. 13. He had one point against the Gators. Second, Jarred Vanderbilt and PJ Washington both had foul trouble, which meant John Calipari couldn’t use the small lineup that has brought Kentucky success recently.

23. Texas A&M Aggies
Record: 20-11
Last week: NR

It feels like the Aggies alternate weeks toward the bottom of the power rankings, speaking to the inconsistency of Billy Kennedy’s team. Since Dec. 21, here are Texas A&M’s win/loss streaks: lose five, win two, lose two, win four, lose three, win three.

24. Miami Hurricanes
Record: 22-8
Last week: NR

The basketball gods are on Miami’s side lately. The Hurricanes have reeled off four wins in a row by a combined eight points. Freshman point guard Chris Lykes is getting more and more comfortable since Bruce Brown’s injury; he has hit double figures in seven of his past eight games.

25. TCU Horned Frogs
Record: 21-10
Last week: 24

The Horned Frogs saw their four-game win streak snapped at Texas Tech on Saturday, finishing 9-9 in the Big 12. Their résumé doesn’t blow anyone away, though there are zero bad losses and great RPI and SOS numbers. It’s also consistent across all the metrics used by the committee.

Dropped out: Rhode Island, Nevada


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